Tag Archives: songwriting

what’s your favorite song by one of your friends?

It’s an amazing thing to get cut off from civilization for a little while. It forces you to enter someplace else – yourself, your thoughts, even the thoughts of someone else – Nick Hornby’s book “Songbook” is perfect for this.

The essays are short, to the point, and revolve around music. But they don’t just encapsulate chord changes or rhyming patterns. The songs are good. And meaningful. And thoughtful. The essays explain through some fantastic, honest, accessible writing why these songs are songs Nick Hornby loves. And it’s not just about “I like that line” or “I like that solo” – it’s WHY that one line is so brilliant, explaining all seven kinds of love (according to the Greeks) in seven or eight words. I’ve pretty much added “Nick Hornby liking a song I wrote” to my bucket list.

And he asks an amazing question – “Who knows how many great songs I’ve missed…songs written and performed by people who are your friends but not, unfortunately, mine?”

Which leads me to ask – What are YOUR favorite songs by your friends?

My newest enemy

It’s been a lover, a best friend, a comfort.

Right now it’s almost an enemy. Asking me to tell secrets to the one guy you never tell secrets to.

Making me say things i’m not totally ready to say, so that people can hear things i’m not ready for them to hear…

Hopefully we get this figured out soon.



It’s Tuesday…for now…(songwriting story #1)

so I had this idea – every Tuesday I’ll write a blog when I get home from band practice about a song, the story in it, maybe even what the lyrics mean. It could be a very cool idea. Almost everyone loved “Storytellers” right? 



So, here’s one of my favorite stories, (we will be opening with this song on Sept 8th at The Burren – plug plug plug), for the song “Fortunes, Forecasts & Lucky Charms” which you can listen to HERE


it’s a great song. I played everything on the recording but the drums (handled perfectly as always by Frank Colagiovanni) but the better story is how the songs came to be.

You know the movie Robin Hood? No, not the Kevin Costner one. The Disney one? with the animals and Robin Hood’s a fox? And Marian is a FOX, if you catch my drift…huh huh (no, she’s really a fox too).

Anyway, it’s brilliant. And has been my favorite movie since I can remember being able to pick a favorite movie. So, one night, my friend Zak Ward (who is a fantastic musician, songwriter, singer, etc – check out Son of the Sun (dot) com) and I were out way too late at the now-closed All Asia Bar in Cambridge, and decided it was a great idea to put on Robin Hood when we got back to the apartment.

And there’s that scene where Robin Hood and Little John dress up as fortune tellers in order to rob Prince John, and Little John shouts “FORtunes, forecasts & LUCKy charms” and we thought it was hilarious. Zak said “That’s a fantastic name for a song” and ten hours later, I wrote this one. 

it’s kind of a love song, and I always thought the video should be in a bric-a-brac shop in LA. 

What does the song make you think of? How’d I do with the title? What’s YOUR favorite character from Robin Hood?

I think i may watch Almost Famous tonight

“William Miller: Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you? Like “Love Thing,” where did you write that and who was it about?

Russell Hammond: When did you get so professional?”

What do you think? How would you have answered?

Go Local or Go Home

I was perusing the internet this afternoon instead of cleaning for my daughter’s 7th BD party tomorrow (7! damn I’m old-ish) and found this awesome gem about “going local” by Mike Vial, a songwriter from Michigan (read the awesome article HERE) and it made me think…

Years ago, I thought it was important to have a “past shows” list that included as many cities and as many venues as possible in a short period of time. Then it occurred to me that when major acts play five shows in three cities in the span of four days, it is because there was a base to begin with. These acts played and played and posted videos and songs and played some more, but always starting locally before branching off into the world. 

It’s not always easy for a musician to get and keep a crowd, but that’s why it’s important to get a base. So consequently I’ve made some decisions:

1. I’m going to make friends with people and ask them to come to my shows. I totally understand that they can’t come to every show, so I’ll ask them to share the videos, tell their friends, add me to their workout playlist – every little bit helps. In fact, my video with the highest # of views has been promoted every year by my awesome friend Margaret who blogs about music, teaching and religion (a great mix!) HERE. Thanks, Meg!

2. I’m going to see other musicians play, not only because I like music, but because they need the audience as well as I do. There’s a huge difference between playing to four people you don’t know in the other bands on the bill and playing to the ten people who came out to spend an hour or so having a drink at the place you’re playing instead of the place next door.

3. I’m going to show up once a month or so at a venue in the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area and sweat until I bleed. (I actually have cut my finger on my guitar strings more than once by playing “too hard” whatever that means.) If the audience has half as much fun as I do, it will be a success.

And I’m going to do this for a while. Maybe a few months, maybe a couple of years…

THEN I’ll worry about booking a tour of the UK and Spain.


**Dann has a show with his band tonight (8/9 10PM) at the Cantab in Central Square Cambridge. If you can’t show up, check out the site and watch the videos a million times clicking the “like” button so all your twitter followers see it too 🙂 **

how do you write a song?

does anyone know?

do you just strum some chords and hum along? do you get an amazing poem and smush, caress and cajole it into submission? 

it’s a delicate process. 

Sometimes songs just happen. Those are the best kind. A phrase, a memory, a thought elicits a response and it’s like a light bulb going on. In a blaze of glory, the writer LEAPS out of bed, grabs a notebook and a guitar and gets to work.

Sometimes songs need to be pulled and dragged kicking and screaming into the world. A title, or a guitar riff, or a few lines of lyric sit there waiting. and waiting. and waiting. Finally, days, weeks, months, YEARS later, the song is finished.

But is a song ever finished? Every performance of the song changes it ever so slightly. Add another musician to the mix and it takes on another color of the same palette or can even go in a totally different direction. I mean, there are only a (small) finite amount of notes, but an infinite amount of ways to play them.

There are even a few lines in songs that after I write them and then sing them, I think to myself, “self (cause that’s what I call myself) WHO wrote this? this is awesome!”

for instance:

“I got this lyric about you/that would make a great tattoo/but now it’s just a decent rhyme”

or “you are light”

or “later on we’re gonna have to pinch ourselves/to convince ourselves we were there”

Some people consider themselves poets, some people consider themselves musicians first. I consider myself lucky that these songs that came from the ether are able to make their way into the world through me. I hope you like them too.

“I probably didn’t write this song for you…”

In the past year or so I’ve become obsessed with Frank Turner, a singer/songwriter/acoustic rock god from Winchester, England. ( http://www.frank-turner.com ). His lyrics are amazing, dense, beautiful (although a friend of mine said he sounds like he’s trying to write himself out of a workhouse – I’m not really sure what that means) and his music sounds a lot like what my music sounds like in my head.

He has this great song from an earlier album “Sleep Is For The Weak” (the most recently released album, “Recovery” is amazing – get it now) called “Romantic Fatigue” in which he writes about one of the drawbacks of being a songwriter. “I never know which song I should play her/each melody is/a memory of a not-forgotten failure/when I pull out my guitar tonight/to do what I do/remember I probably didn’t write this song for you.” http://youtu.be/FSq6mxb2PEM 

it’s brilliant. I’m pretty sure that out of all the songs I’ve written about someone, I either didn’t want THEM to know it was about them, or I didn’t want OTHER people to know the song was about them, or, which has happened a great majority of the time, each verse in the song is a different vignette of a moment in life, of a different person, and just might not be about you.

Do other songwriters find this happen? is it always about one person? and, more importantly, do you TELL THEM? 🙂